As we prepare to celebrate our patronal feast, Mary Assumed into Heaven, each day of our novena clergy of the Archdiocese of Cape Town will offer reflections on Our Lady.
In this reflection for Sunday, 15 August, Archbishop Stephen Brislin reflects on Mary Assumed into Heaven – Celebrating with us now the hope and joy of all people being reconciled and restored in Jesus.
This video is also available on the Archdiocese of Cape Town’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Please share these daily reflections on your parish WhatsApp groups and other social media platforms.
The text of the video is provided below, especially for those who are deaf.
Thank you for joining this final Novena reflection. I wish you and all your loved ones a blessed and joyful Feast Day. Mary was assumed into heaven, body and soul, a mystery rich in meaning and profound in the promise it holds out to humanity. It is interesting that the “Dogma of Assumption” does not simply state that Mary was assumed into heaven, but it specifies “that Mary was taken body and soul” into heaven. We often think of ourselves as somehow being made up of different constitutive parts – spirit, soul and body. These are aspects of personhood, but the mystery of the Assumption affirms strongly the integrity of the human person, in other words, the unity and wholeness of the person. A person cannot be cut up into different parts, although we recognize that there are different aspects such as the physical, the spiritual and the soul. All are necessary to make a person a person, and the Assumption of Mary displays this clearly – she was not only saved by Jesus and assumed in a spiritual way into heaven, but also bodily. It is our belief that the whole person is saved and not just one aspect.
Similarly with the Ascension of Jesus. After Jesus rose from the dead he was at pains to demonstrate to his disciples that he was not a ghost or purely spiritual being – thus, he requested some fish to eat, saying that ghosts don’t eat. He instructed Thomas to place his finger and hand in his wounds to prove that he was flesh and blood. Jesus’ bodily resurrection and ascension is the destiny that is offered to all of us, and this is affirmed by the Assumption of Our Lady who, like us, was a disciple of Jesus.
Of what importance is this to us? There can be a tendency for some to place undue emphasis on the material aspect of humanity and to deny a spiritual side, to seek only satisfaction of the body to the of neglect the spiritual. On the other hand, there are those who over-spiritualize their human life and who think that the body is of no consequence, thinking it finite and subject to decay, and believing that it is only the spirit that will be saved. It is vital to understand the importance and integrity of the human person, even in everyday life. For example, health Care, Education, Town Planning, etc., all of these need to take into account that a person is not only a physical being, but has spiritual and emotional needs as well.
This tendency to “divide” the human person occurs because there can be discord within ourselves. Even Jesus said, “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”1. St Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, I do not understand my own actions….For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do2. We sometimes feel that we are at “war” within ourselves, that we are being pulled in different directions because we do not subject ourselves to our will, but are drawn by forces within ourselves that we don’t fully understand. Sometimes are will rebels, even against our better judgement. There is a need to reconcile those forces within us. To reconcile means to make things compatible with each other. Christian maturity is to make the different aspects of our personhood compatible with each so that we are able to align the will with the flesh, the soul with the body, and to mould them into a unity and oneness, so that our “yes” is “yes” and our “no” is “no”3. In this way we respond to our Christian vocation and our path to sanctification as we seek to belong fully to Christ, body, spirit and soul – the total person.4
Our Christian vocation is not confined to personal sanctification. We are all called to mission, to be bearers of the light of Christ to the world. Just as we wish to bring wholeness to the disconnectedness within ourselves, we have a responsibility to bring wholeness to our community and to our society. In other words – in the words of St Paul – we are Christ’s ambassadors entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation5. The miracle of the Assumption urges us to go beyond a personal quest to be fully integrated as persons, and to bring healing, unity and wholeness to others, especially in the society in which we live.The mystical Body of Christ is broken and suffering just as Jesus’ physical body was broken on the Cross. Divisions and conflicts exist wherever there are people. They exist in our country which continues to be divided by its past, suffering because of the present and uncertain of the future. How fortunate we are to have Mary Assumed into Heaven as the Patroness of South Africa. Her intercession and protection do not only inspire us to continue the work of reconciliation and healing, but they also give us the hope and confidence that our efforts will bear fruit. We should not shrink from the task at hand but, like Mary, we should respond generously to integrating and gathering people into harmony and a peaceful acceptance of each other.
Let us now pray the Memorare:
Remember O most gracious Virgin Mary,
Never was it know that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help and sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly unto unto thee O Virgin of virgins, my Mother, to thee I come, before thee I kneel sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy, hear and answer me, amen.
May Almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son…
Mary, Assumed into Heaven, pray for us.
1 Matthew 26:41
2 Romans 7:15;19
3 Matthew 5:37
4 1 Corinthians 3:23
5 2 Corinthians 5:11-21